I wrote a negative book review a while ago of The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfus. I stopped reading two thirds through and got a refund. But I never published the review and I’m glad for that. People love that book. Tastes in literature are not subject of some great, objective truth. If my tastes are weird, that doesn’t invalidate someone another person’s.
I was mad because I wanted to love the book. I wanted to get the joy that many other reviewers reported that they had. I was jealous that others had enjoyed a work in a way I couldn’t.
I’m really happy that I didn’t write that angry review. It’s unlikely that the author would have read it, but I wrote it to hurt him. I’ve read things about that author that would have made me ashamed to hurt him. He’s a creative person who has been a friend to other creative and kind people. I like his friends’ work. He’s friends with the guys at penny arcade and Jenny Lawson over at thebloggess and the Greens. Maybe at another point in my life, I would have liked his book, too.
Bad reviews have their place, but I feel like it’s tempting to let out all the vitriol out online. I wonder why that is? There’s Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, and that does ring true. It’s a part of the problem. When Alanah Pearce got inappropriate messages from gamers, she told their moms. I think that proves the point: if people thought their moms were reading over their shoulder, most would probably think twice before making rape threats.
But I think it was equally important that I lacked a perception of the identity of that author. It wasn’t just that I was anonymous. That author wasn’t a person to me. He was a name on a book that I was mad at. I don’t know how we resolve that.
I’m glad I kept it to myself.